around the bar
April 9, 2012

2012 Margaret Brent Award Honorees Announced

The _ Commission on Women in the Profession has chosen five women lawyers to receive its 2012 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award.

The award ceremony luncheon will take place Sunday, Aug. 5 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, during the ABA Annual Meeting.


Hon. Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, chief justice of California, the Supreme Court of California in San Francisco, was only 51 years old when sworn in as the 28th chief justice of the state in January 2011.  Prior to her current appointment, Cantil-Sakauye served in numerous judicial offices on California’s appellate and trial courts.  After her appointment to the trial court, she was a source of advice and counsel to minority and women attorneys who appeared before her, as well as to other female judges.  Cantil-Sakauye is the first Asian Pacific American woman chief justice of California and the first and only Asian Pacific American woman chief justice of any state supreme court, and has committed the California Judicial Council and the Administrative Office of the Courts to the goal of a diverse judiciary.  She has a long-standing involvement with law students, including actively supporting an outreach program for socioeconomically disadvantaged undergraduate students at her law school alma mater that provides them with the skills necessary to compete in the law school admissions process.

Marcia Devins Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C., is a nationally recognized women’s rights advocate and an expert on women and the law, particularly in the areas of education and employment, health and reproductive rights, and family economic security.  She has spearheaded the development of women’s legal rights through litigation, legislative advocacy, appearances before the executive branch and its agencies, and public education, and in 1981, she founded the National Women’s Law Center.  Greenberger also helped create two important programs outside the Center dedicated to advancing opportunities for women lawyers.  The Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellowship program provides one-year fellowships for recent law graduates to work on women’s legal issues in various organizations in Washington, D.C.  She also helped establish the Women’s Appointments Project in the mid-1970s and has actively recruited highly qualified women lawyers for positions in the federal governments.

Joan M. Hall, retired partner at Jenner & Block LLP in Chicago, started at the firm as an associate upon graduating from law school and rose through the ranks to become its second woman partner, its first female litigation partner and the first woman appointed to Jenner’s executive committee.  She also was the first woman to chair Jenner’s hiring committee, and in 1974, more than half of that year’s hires were women.  Hall was one of the first women lawyers (and the first woman in Illinois) to be named a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, an honor extended only to those trial lawyers who have demonstrated exceptional skill as advocates.  In 1982, she became the first woman chair of the ABA Section of Litigation and used her year-long term to establish the process of diversifying both the section’s leadership and its membership.  Since the late 1990s, Hall has been a driving force behind the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School of Chicago, which has enabled hundreds of girls in grades seven through 12 to obtain a college degree and become leaders themselves.

Arlinda Locklear, of Arlinda Locklear Law Office in Washington, D.C., began her career as an attorney at the Native American Rights Fund.  During her 35-year career in federal Indian law, she has represented tribes throughout the country in federal and state courts on treaty claims to water and land, taxation disputes with states and local authorities, reservation boundary issues, and federal recognition of tribes.  In 1984, Locklear appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court, where she successfully challenged South Dakota’s authority to prosecute a Native American for on-reservation conduct.  In doing so, she was the first Native American woman to appear before the Court.  Since that time, five other Native American women have argued before the Supreme Court.  Her goal always is to give back to her community and other Native American communities, and Locklear has received numerous awards for fostering the development of women, among them a 2008 honor for her contributions to the American Indian community by the Conference of American Indian Women of Proud Nations.

Amy W. Schulman of New York, is executive vice president and general counsel of Pfizer, president of Pfizer Nutrition.  At DLA Piper, she was the firm’s biggest rainmaker and leveraged her economic power and high-profile position on behalf of other women to change the way the firm leadership viewed its obligation to develop women and diverse talent.  Schulman led the firm’s mass tort litigation practice, which she built from the ground up, and was the first woman to serve on the firm’s global board and its U.S. executive committee.  In 2008, she joined Pfizer Inc., the global biopharmaceutical company.  In her role as general counsel, she created a new model for relationships between corporate counsel and law firms, influencing how clients are served, how young lawyers are trained, and how accountable lawyers are for the services they provide.  Schulman, the executive sponsor of Pfizer’s Global Women’s Council, is passionate about the advancement of women and continues to identify creative ways to improve management and leadership opportunities for them.

The ABA Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, established in 1991, honors outstanding women lawyers who have achieved professional excellence in their area of specialty and have actively paved the way to success for others.  The award is named for Margaret Brent, the first woman lawyer in America.  Brent arrived in the colonies in 1638, and was involved in 124 court cases in more than eight years, winning every case. In 1648, she formally demanded a vote and voice in the Maryland Assembly, which the governor denied. 

Previous winners range from small-firm practitioners in Alabama and Alaska to U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Winners are selected on the basis of their professional accomplishments and their role in opening doors for other women lawyers.  Mary Cranston, chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, says of this year’s Brent winners, “These highly distinguished women have been trailblazers throughout their careers.  They are inspirational role models for women throughout the legal profession, and indeed all women.”